Copyright © 2010 by Dr. Brian Cullen
A key word in using NLP effectively is state. A state can be understood as a particular pattern of mind and body. In everyday language, we can describe people as being in a happy state or a relaxed state or an upset state. Other common states are motivation, curiosity, or love. This article is a brief introduction to state management and the powerful COACH state.
Clearly, some states are more useful than others when we are trying to do NLP work with other people or with ourselves and these useful states are called resourceful states. For example, a motivational state is generally more useful than an agitated state when we want to focus on getting something done. Similarly, a relaxed state is often more useful when we want to do access the unconscious mind. Robert Dilts talks about two states called COACH and CRASH. These are summarized below.
A CRASH state is generally unresourceful and not useful in achieving our goals. This state is generally provoked by meeting something fearful or unknown or getting caught in a loop where our thinking is paralyzed. The CRASH state can be seen as a reversion to survival strategies of fight, flight, or freeze, and can result in confusion, conflict, difficulty in letting go and inertia.
Hurt and Hatred
In contrast to the CRASH state, the COACH state is a highly resourceful state that we can enter in order to carry out NLP work effectively.
Attending with Awareness
Deliberately accessing a useful state is called state management and being able to control your own state is vital in effective NLP work. Because one of the main presuppositions of NLP is that mind and body form a single system, state management also consists of two components:
a) entering the physiology of the desired state
b) using the mental representations of the desired state
When someone enters a panicked state, the people around them often say things like “take a deep breath,” and this is a good example of a suggestion to adopt a more useful physiological state. Here is how one writer describes the benefits of deep breathing:
Deep breathing benefits the body by taking in the correct amount of oxygen which in turn lowers blood pressure and relaxes muscles. It also relaxes the brain and causes the heart rate to slow down. Deep breathing helps our body to release more carbon dioxide. Amongst the many health benefits of deep breathing are its cleansing properties for the lymphatic system. We know that the lymph surrounds all the cells in our bodies, correct breathing technique removes the toxins from these cells through the lymphatic system. Deep breathing is known to release endorphins which, in layman’s terms are called feel good hormones. These are natural pain killers in the body and help relax the muscles and nerves. Deep breathing is also known to help people who are depressed. Asthmatics also benefit a lot from deep breathing as it makes the abdominal muscles stronger and improves the lung capacity. Shallow breathing leads to the flow of insufficient oxygen in the body which leads to muscle exertion, lethargy and fatigue. Deep breathing can help us activate our relaxationstress relievers. It also helps people suffering from insomnia. Deep breathing exercise benefits in losing weight.
Clearly, a simple shift in physiology such as taking a deep breath can affect a person’s state enormously. Other useful physiological shifts include moving from a slumped posture to an upright one or taking a few minutes to do stretches.
Mental or internal representations are the patterns we use to represent the world to ourselves in our own minds and consist of our internal pictures, sounds, dialogues, and feelings. By beginning to take control of your internal representations, you can start to manage your state in exactly the way that you want to achieve your desired outcome. A simple example is when you remember a happy time. As you remember that time now, pictures, sounds, and feelings from that time will return to you as you relive that time. Your mind makes no distinction between the original happy time and your memory of it, so if you re-enter that memory fully and completely, you will naturally re-enter the happy state that you experienced at that time.
This article has been a short introduction to state management and the powerful COACH state. By learning to manage your state deliberately and effectively, eventually you will find that you are achieving your desired outcomes much more easily.